Saturday, December 12, 2015

Longoria & Vargas to meet in final of LPRT 24th Annual NES Associates Christmas Classic

Number one will play number two in the final of the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) 24th Annual NES Associates Christmas Classic in Arlington, Virginia, as LPRT #1 Paola Longoria and #2 Maria Jose Vargas won their respective semi-final matches on Saturday. Both advanced to the final in three straight games.

Longoria defeated Samantha Salas, 11-1, 11-6, 11-7, while Vargas beat Veronica Sotomayor in three close games, 12-10, 11-7, 11-9.

For Sotomayor, it was a case of "what if?" as she was up in all three games against Vargas, yet lost each one. In game one, Sotomayor was ahead 3-1. Vargas tied it at 3-3, and Sotomayor went ahead again 9-5.

Then it was Vargas's turn to come back and tie it at 9-9, and then go ahead 10-9. Sotomayor fought off three game points, and then tied Vargas at 10-10 with a drive serve ace to the left side. However, she skipped a forehand shot on the next rally, giving the serve back to Vargas.

Vargas hit her own ace drive serve to the left to make it 11-10, and won the game when Sotomayor skipped a backhand shot on the next rally.

Sotomayor was undeterred, as she took a 7-2 lead in game two. Yet Vargas held her at seven, and scored nine unanswered points to win 11-7. And impressively, Vargas scored those points on nine straight rallies. Sotomayor took a timeout when she still led at 7-5, but that didn't change the momentum. In fact, Vargas hit an ace drive serve to the left, when play resumed after that timeout.

At that point, you could understand if Sotomayor just rolled over in game three. But she didn't. In fact, Sotomayor took an 8-0 lead in game three. Vargas took her second timeout at that point, and got the serve back on the next rally with a forehand winner.

That led to ten unanswered points (not on consecutive rallies), so Vargas led 10-8. Sotomayor fought off two match points, and scored one of her own to make it 10-9. Then it seemed Vargas had won the game, and match, but Sotomayor appealed the serve, and the line judges ruled the serve had been short. Thus, the rally was replayed.

However, on the ensuing rally, Vargas hit a clean forehand kill shot that ended the game and match.

A similar story line unfurled in the other semi-final after Longoria won the first game comfortably at 11-1. In game two, Salas the lead at 6-3. Longoria took a timeout at that point.

They went back and forth after that, and then Longoria got a point when she saved a rally by hitting a weak shot into the back wall that barely made the front wall. Salas ran up to get it, but skipped her shot, making the score 6-4 with Longoria serving. Longoria won the next six rallies to make the score 10-6, and won it on her second game point with a backhand re-kill.

But Salas took the lead in game three at 6-1. Longoria tied it at 6-6, and they were tied at 7-7 also. A Salas backhand skip gave Longoria the lead that she would not give up. Longoria hit a drive serve ace to the left, and then got a service winner with another drive serve to the left, Salas's backhand.

The game winning point came with a forehand cross court that ended a long rally that featured some of the many good gets Salas made throughout the match.

Longoria and Salas will face off again on Sunday, as they are on opposing doubles teams in the Women's Doubles final. Salas had the more difficult route to the doubles final, as she and Susana Acosta needed three games to defeat Cristina Amaya and Sofia Rascon, 15-5, 3-15, 11-7, while Longoria and Alexandra Herrera beat Sotomayor and Vargas in the other semi, 15-9, 15-3.

That second semi had a scary incident early in game one at 2-2, when Vargas - going for a overhead cross court shot - hit Longoria in the side of the head knocking her eye guards flying. She immediately bent over and remained like that for some time.

However, when she left the court on an injury timeout, it was clear that thankfully Longoria hadn't been cut on the play. She continued, and seemed to be unaffected by the incident during the rest of the match.

It looked like Amaya and Rascon were going to complete the comeback early in the tie-breaker of their match, as they were up 6-2. But a timeout by Acosta and Salas at that point led to a sideout via an Acosta cross court shot, and then they scored eight points before they gave up the serve. Several of those points began with Salas hitting straight drive serves down the right side glass wall to Rascon.

With the serve back, Amaya hit an ace drive serve to the left. But they lost the next two rallies to give Acosta and Salas another match point opportunity. They won it when Acosta hit a backhand wide angle pass in the front court.

The singles final is Sunday at 11 AM with the doubles final at noon; times are eastern. You can watch matches live from Arlington via the LPRT Livestream channel.

2015 24th Annual NES Associates Christmas Classic, December 11-13
Arlington, Virginia

Semi-finals - Singles

1) Paola Longoria d. 4) Samantha Salas, 11-1, 11-6, 11-7
2) Maria Jose Vargas d. 11) Veronica Sotomayor, 12-10, 11-7, 11-9

Final - Singles

1) Paola Longoria v. 2) Maria Jose Vargas - 11 AM

Semi-finals - Doubles

1) Susana Acosta & Samantha Salas d. 5) Cristina Amaya & Sofia Rascon, 15-5, 3-15, 11-7
2) Alexandra Herrera & Paola Longoria d. 6) Veronica Sotomayor & Maria Jose Vargas, 15-9, 15-3

Final - Doubles

1) Susana Acosta & Samantha Salas v. 2) Alexandra Herrera & Paola Longoria

Follow the bouncing ball….

No comments: